My mother died two weeks ago, that was the reason for my rush visit to Israel. I didn’t see her before she died, lucky for her it was only 10 days in the hospital and it was over. She lived with cancer for 12 years, but she lived very well. I’m glad I saw her three months ago.
Now for memories.My parents, when they were young, very very young.Still beautiful, at one of my nephew’s weddings.At another wedding, with her three kids. Meeting her first great-grandchild, my grandson Aytan. By the time she died, she had nine great-grandchildren and one more on the way. Unfortunately, because of the distance she never met my other four, only saw pictures of them. She loved hiking and was able to hike up until about 2 years ago.She still looked this good in February when I saw her.
Burials in Israel are very direct and basic. Coffins are only used when the body has been traumatized. Otherwise, the body is wrapped in a shroud, put on a simple stretcher under a Tallit, if it is a man and he had one. Or under a simple covering. At the grave site, the body is gently lowered into the grave, all the while the Chevrah Kaddishah – the men from the burial society are asking for forgiveness, that they are being kind enough and gentle enough.
Then the family and friends fill in the grave themselves. This may sound harsh, for me, it was very real and therapeutic. We returned my mothers’ body to the earth, no euphemisms no trying to hide death. Simple accepting it.
We sat Shiva for seven days, another wonderful Jewish tradition, where the mourners, (Parents, children, siblings, so in this case, only her three children) sit on low chairs and people come to share with us. Either memories they had, or ask us about our memories. Sometimes it’s just talk that has nothing to do with my mother. But it is a wonderfully cathartic experience.
On the 7th day, the Shiva ends and we went back to the gravesite to say Psalms.
This is what the gravesite will look like until a tombstone is put on top. Flowers aren’t really common in Israel, these were sent from my brother’s work. But most Israelis don’t put flowers. We put a stone on the gravesite.My father’s grave, right next to hers. He died 33 years ago to the week. This is what hers will look like in a few months.
Then it was back to her apartment, which is in a senior center, where friends from the building who couldn’t make it to the Shiva came to pay their respects. She was well loved.
I brought some items home, among them this: My mother’s wedding ring, this is the ring my she used when she married my father. In the last few years, she really got thin because of cancer and this ring didn’t fit anymore. She wore it on a chain around her neck. I don’t know where my father’s ring which was identical went. I’m sure my brothers will find it at some point. It fits me perfectly. It is a simple yet artistic ring, silver, and copper.
Someone at the Shiva stated things very well: it was sad but not a tragedy. She lived a long full life, she lived it well. She left many wonderful descendants and we will remember her and carry her memory on to our children and grandchildren.